Almost a third (28%) of British people wrongly think you can get HIV from kissing, sharing a glass, spit, a public toilet seat, coughs and sneezes.
It sounds like a myth from the 1980s, but it is actually believed by more people today than in 2010, when the figure was only 18%.
That’s according to new research for National AIDS Trust by Ipsos MORI and published for World AIDS Day today (1 December).
Only 45 really know what can give you HIV.
One in ten (9%) think if you get HIV you will probably die within three years. In fact if you are diagnosed with HIV early and get treatment, you can expect a normal lifespan.
Almost one in five (17%) don’t know that HIV is passed on through sex without a condom between a man and a woman. And a similar proportion (19%) don’t know that HIV is passed on through sex without a condom between two men.
A quarter don’t know that HIV is passed on through sharing needles or syringes.
Only 21% know that if someone is on effective treatment they have an extremely low chance of passing HIV on through sex.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of National AIDS Trust, said the results were ‘alarming’.
She added: ‘Lack of understanding leads to stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. This is taking us straight back to the early 80s – and this time we don’t have the excuse of not knowing better.’
The stats back that up too. The survey shows 37% of people felt they should be told if one of their work colleagues is HIV positive, even though you can’t catch HIV in a normal working environment.
But public sympathy for those with the virus is higher.
Now 79% of people said people with HIV deserve the same support as those with cancer; in 2010 it was 74% and in 2007 it was 70%.
But 23% say they don’t have much sympathy for people with HIV infected through unprotected sex.
National AIDS Trust is demanding better education for adults and children about HIV to tackle the problem.